Shape of the World
Developer: Seaven Studios / Hollow Tree Games
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Category: Adventure, Simulation, Music
Composer: Brent Silk
Release Date: 06.06.2018
Do you remember the 1st time?
Certain games leave a lasting impression, memories that will occupy the hippocampus for many moons. By the same token there are games that I honestly wish I could play again for the 1st time. 2017’s game of the year, Breath of the Wild for example, I would give away my complete amiibo collection to be able to play again with no memories.
Shape of the World is comparatively unique.
Originally brought to life via the juggernaut that is Kickstarter by Stu Maxwell, a senior VFX artist on Gears of War 4, production began in 2014, Stu was soon joined by Athomas Goldberg to aid with animation and the smoothly named Brent Silk to compose the music for the game. In 2015 Hollow Tree Games was formed as a result of the expanding size of the work force.
Shape of the World offers absolutely nothing by means of a narrative to work with. For the purpose of this review let me just say, that a story is completely irrelevant. The bread and butter of this idiosyncratic title is exploring the charming, charismatic world.
Shape of the World is unlike anything that I have ever played before. It adopts a cel shaded aesthetic which is quite simply lovely. At the same time it utilises a strange mixture of pastels, which can be both jarring and utterly compelling. Comparatively they shouldn’t work. They should clash wildly and offer absolutely no balance, yet somehow I find myself drawn to the environments, ever longing to see just a little bit more.
As well as the eclectic environments, its is the musical direction that really drives the game. Everything about the score pairs in perfect unison with the nature of the game play. While the world is beautiful and full of strange, often surreal life, the constant ebb and flow of fantastic music really brings the world to life. As well as the games glorious score, all of the sound effects are top notch to boot and really offer added ambience.
Above all else, exploration is the name of the game in Shape of the World. From the outset, you are presented with a white space to explore with some vague pencil lines and an ominous triangle on the horizon. As you head toward the triangle, your surroundings begin to grow and change, seemingly springing to life. It’s when you enter the triangle that things really start to get interesting though. As if by some form of witchcraft, colour immediately fills the entire canvass. And not just a little bit.
In that moment the game transforms into something quite memorable. As you continue to explore, you are enticed to head towards other triangle markers. As before, upon entering them, the pallet of the entire game changes as well as the environments augmenting and showing new paths to explore and admire.
After a short time, new game play mechanics are added such as pillars, which when interacted with, create bridges which can be taken to new and fanciful areas. At the same time, you can plant trees by throwing seeds. As well as the procedural generated plant life, if you interact with these you gain a movement boost which will hurry you on your way.
The only aspect of Shape of the World that I didn’t absolutely adore was controls. Movement throughout is clunky, slow and at times so unpredictable that I genuinely became frustrated playing it, if only for a very brief moment. As soon as I was back on track I was quickly having a whale of a time once more. However, on reflection, I do find it a little annoying that a game focused solely on relaxation had such disconcerting feature, especially in areas involving jumping.
I’m in love with the Shape of you
Harking back to my opening statement, Shape of the World is an experience that will undoubtedly make you smile and fill you with many happy memories. Everything from the cel shaded visuals to the atmospheric and adrenaline fuelled soundtrack push this game in the direction that the talented team clearly wanted to take it. It’s clear almost immediately that the original vision of the creator has been lovingly crafted into one of the most unique and diverse experiences out there.
Aside from the cumbersome controls, which can be overlooked, every aspect of Shape of the World is singing off of the same hymn sheet.
Beautiful, wildly imaginative world, brimming with life and personality. Brilliant use of cel shading, matched only by the audacity of the colour pairings. One of the most energy fuelled soundtracks around, yet still somehow serene. Play with headphones in handheld mode. Or on the TV with a decent audio set up. Awkward controls that frustrate but aren’t game breaking.